Given for UNC ENVR 400 seminar 12n 10 Feb 2010 (see http://www.unc.edu/~weinberg/400/seminar_0210.html). Mr McMahan is currently a PhD student in the department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
Lack of access to safe water, improper sanitation and poor hygiene all contribute to an ongoing global health and development crisis resulting in millions of deaths and massive infectious disease morbidity burdens affecting billions of persons annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly one-tenth of the global disease burden could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and water resource management. Inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene account for roughly 94 percent of the 4 billion cases of diarrhea that WHO estimates occur globally each year. Children under the age of 5 in developing countries bear the greatest burden, accounting for most of the 1.5 million deaths attributed to diarrhea annually.
This presentation will describe a study to address some of these challenges in Central Vietnam with collaboration from the piped water-implementing partner, East Meets West (EMW) Foundation. The overall goals of the field study were to identify consumer demand drivers for water and sanitation improvements, assess consumer demand behaviors, and evaluate water quality and health impacts of water and sanitation improvements. Households in each of 3 groups were surveyed: those that invested in a paid water connection, those that invested both in a paid water connection and sanitation, and control households who did not invest in water and sanitation improvements. The research was focused on the development of a compartmentalized plastic bag for water quality testing for hydrogen sulfide (H2S)-producing fecal microbes in water to estimate their concentration as Most Probable Number (MPN). Not only was the low-cost MPN compartment bag found to be simple and easy-to-use in field settings, but the results obtained from its use showed that there are significant relationships between H2S producing bacteria, E. coli bacteria, and household diarrheal disease risks. Further molecular analysis of the bacterial community structure of select Vietnamese water samples showed that there was a strong relationship between positive H2S tests and water containing pathogens of concern. Hence, This test could help meet the great need for microbial water quality testing in small community and household water supplies that lack access to and cannot afford conventional bacteriological testing of drinking water both in rural areas of the United States and throughout the world. Furthermore, H2S tests also can serve to educate, motivate and empower individuals, groups and communities by getting them involved in drinking water monitoring and production and to deliver health education messages about water supply and sanitation.